Wildwood native Joe Grassi has been a fixture of the Southern New Jersey trial law community for nearly two decades. Genial, unpretentious and able to relate to clients, jurors and even adversaries with equal effectiveness, the 51-year-old Grassi has built a record of successes - and a strong reputation - as both a civil and criminal defense attorney in Cape May County. After graduating from Temple, Grassi was by his own admission "a bit of a hippie" for a few years, working out West and deciding on a career. Trial law was always attractive in part because "I was one argumentative little kid - sometimes I drove my family nuts," he says. By the time he entered law school, in the late 70s, trial law was a natural fit - he later joined the Cape May County Public Defender's office. For six years, Grassi handled a constant flow of cases, giving him valuable courtroom experience at a young age. In 1989, Grassi joined a private practice that built further on his skills as a litigator. In the late 80's, he represented a low-IQ man who'd been charged with murder after police coerced a confession - and Grassi won the innocent man his freedom. After a merger with another firm, Grassi practices today with four attorneys, including three other partners, at Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gibson. More than two-thirds of the firm's work today is civil plaintiff's law - personal injury and accidents, product liability and some medical malpractice. The firm prides itself on representing "the little guy" rather than large companies and institutional interests. Today Grassi continues to handle some smaller criminal cases, but the bulk of his docket is personal-injury work, "falling-down law," he says. Further, Grassi is one of the few attorneys to embrace technology - he reads and promptly answers his own email, still not a standard practice in the law. (The firm also has a clever web site: "Busted at the Beach" for tourists who run afoul of the law at the Southern Jersey Shore.) He lives in Wildwood Crest with his wife and three daughters.